CHAMBER CHAT: Harbour City ready for food truck phenomenon

NANAIMO – A few enthusiastic entrepreneurs are proposing a new approach to the city through the chamber of commerce

By Kim Smythe

By now everyone is very familiar with a phenomenon that started in many cities about a decade ago where food is sold and served curbside from a truck or trailer with a kitchen on board.

What started as hot dog carts in the park has grown to include a wide variety of foods served from mobile locations – sometimes ethnic, often featuring local or organic ingredients, usually served in paper wrap or trays, and somehow best enjoyed while you’re hanging out on a street corner.

Hours of television programming are devoted to ‘street eats’ and, in most cities, thousands of people daily dine at one of these colourful and creative ‘restaurants on wheels.’

Victoria and Vancouver are great examples, but even Courtenay, Duncan and Parksville are developing a food truck culture.

But not so much in Nanaimo. A couple of food trucks made appearances in recent years and struggled to survive regulatory approval, appropriate operating terms and spaces, and customers in the locations the city would permit.

Unfortunately, most failed under the weight of bureaucracy.The Vancouver Island Food Truck Association, a loose-knit group of operators, are trying to break through in some smaller communities that have been a challenge – ours included.

A few enthusiastic entrepreneurs are proposing a new approach to the city through the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce. It’s well known from experience that food trucks and carts do not pose an unfair advantage over restaurant operators. Food trucks act as an attraction and a destination unto themselves.

When gathered together, they present a roving ‘food festival.’ When used to provide food at community events, in festivals and in parks, they are a lively addition to the festivities replacing the tired, old approach to concession stands a city would operate, or license, a permanent structure to churn out the same old, same old dogs and fries or plastic-wrapped, pre-made sandwiches.

Is Nanaimo ready? Can you see it now – on our city streets downtown, at our beaches, in our parks? Should we support and encourage our community to seek ‘friendly’ regulation and permitting policies?

If you say yes, let mayor and council know or tell the chamber you’re on board with street eats in Nanaimo.

Please call me or e-mail your opinion to ceo@nanaimochamber.bc.ca or 250-756-1191.

Kim Smythe is CEO of Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce.